Dance More

Resolution #9.

I’m really kicking butt at my New Years Resolutions. I am writing this on the plane back from Hawkeye Swing Festival. The weekend before that I was at 505 Stomp. I can now say that I’ve traveled for lindy hop two weekends in a row. That feels a little crazy. Crazy awesome.

Not traveling for a while and being stuck in LA put me in a little rut and I don’t think I even realized it. It wasn’t necessarily a dancing rut, but more of a people rut. I became too focused on the people around me and a lot of the issues that really bother me in the LA dance scene. I began to feel like things would never change, because people don’t change, and everything is just at a stalemate. I slowly began to feel like Han Solo frozen in carbonite. But, like a frog in cold water that warmed up slowly to boiling, I almost didn’t realize that my soul was being slowly murdered.

If Han Solo was my lindy hop soul…

Then I went to 505 Stomp. First of all, an incredible event that everyone should go to. It is run by two of the most fun, kind, good people I have ever met, Rachel and Brett. Now having the chance to have had a conversation or two with them, perhaps after a drink or two, I feel extremely lucky to have met them. And everyone should feel extremely lucky to have such joyous, hardworking, and profoundly kind people in our lindy hop community!

Then I went to Hawkeye and got to chat with Carl Nelson for a bit. He offered some amazing, inspiring, and kind of stupidly obvious advice to help some stuff here in LA. I also got to meet and chat with Jenny and Christian from St. Louis over some bomb crepes. Meeting really amazing dancers that also happen to be genuinely kind and not douche-y people is clearly not as hard as it seems. You just have to be ANYWHERE outside of LA.

Talking to Rachel and Brett, and Carl, and Jenny and Christian really shattered the carbonite around my little lindy hop soul. It invigorated me. There are good people out there, and they do exist, and not only that, they thrive and excel. Living in LA it always feels like the nice guy finishes last. Or better, doesn’t finish at all. Or better yet, doesn’t even enter the race. This kind of mentality is death. A very slow death of your soul in that you don’t even realize that you’re becoming more and more like Marvin, the paranoid android.

 So LA dancers! This is a call to action! We need to remember what lindy hop is all about. We need to remember why we love it so much. We need to remember Frankie’s message and keep it alive in our lindy hop souls. Frankie wanted more than anything to spread lindy hop. Not to make money, not to be popular or famous, not to impress his friends and family, but to have other people know the joy that it brought him. This is the key and we need to always remember to never lose it. Keep that flame lit, not matter how hard it is, never let it blow out. Sometimes it might be a raging flame, other times a small flickering candle, but the most important thing is to keep it alive. Put that idea, that key, that flame into everything you do for this community and I guarantee it will come back to you ten fold in the most unexpected of ways.

I want to end this post with my favorite Frankie story I heard from Silvia Sykes. She used to bring him out to Santa Barbara to teach people there how to dance and after years of him teaching there Silvia and Frankie were watching people social dance. Silvia looks around seeing people stumble through the steps, constantly messing up their footwork, and just generally be terrible at lindy hop. She turns to Frankie and asks him if he’s proud of his life’s work, genuinely being concerned that Frankie might be disappointed watching these people he has been teaching butcher everything.  So Frankie turns to Silvia and says with his infallible wisdom “Of course! Look! They are all smiling!” *

Thanks to Lindy Hopper’s Fund for the image

*and that is when I start crying like a baby.

Jazz that nobody asked for

This is how I want my dancing to be.

Found and promptly stolen from dogpossum. Thank you!

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Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Now, anyone who knows me knows I hate dirty hippies. But this is pretty frickin’ rad and super inspiring.

Lindy hop needs more inspirational and share-able videos like this one, who’s on it?

 

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Teach More

Resolution #6.

This means a lot to me. I love teaching probably more than life itself so the fact that I don’t get to do it as much as I want need to really bums me out a lot.

At the same time I still want to take a lot of classes from teachers that inspire me. Sometimes big names like Frida and Skye, but a lot of the time there are just some amazing local dancers who I would do anything to take classes from and they just never get the opportunity to teach. It might be that these dancers that I admire don’t want to teach much, but it could also be that these talented, hard working, spirited, knowledgeable, caring, long time dancers are being passed over because someone less experienced relative “newbie” is willing to do it for free.

The bigger question here is how does this affect our community? If the people in the positions of power to set the standard for what a quality lindy hop teacher is hire the lowest bidder, how will we as a community progress? If people choose the bottom line over quality how does that affect your dance community? How does that affect the standards of our entire community? How does that affect how our dance is perceived by people outside of our community?

WTF!?

So here’s my open letter to the people who are in the position to lead our community into the future by the instructors they hire:

Please hire dancers who you actually believe in.
Please hire dancers who you admire.
Please hire dancers who are good teachers.
Please hire dancers who have experience.
Please don’t hire dancers just because they are the lowest bidder.
Please don’t sacrifice quality for the bottom line, this never works in the long term.
Please don’t hire dancers just because they are your friend.
Please don’t hire dancers solely because they can “bring in a lot of people”.
Please only hire dancers who are passionate about the dance and our community and have visions for the future.
And last of all, please don’t hire the douche bags are just there to climb the social ladder because they were never popular in high school.  

I’d like to take this time now to officially and publicly declare that I would like to teach. I would like to teach a lot.  I would like to teach a lot more.

I’d like to think that I’m at least a decent lindy hop dancer. I’ve been dancing for 6 years. I’ve dedicated a lot of time to, not only getting better as a dancer, but growing our dance community as well. I’ve placed in a few competitions. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished so far and I believe that I have at least some valuable experiences under my belt that would be really helpful to new dancers. I would be so so so grateful for the opportunity to share my opinions about the dance and my experiences. However, if you don’t agree with my opinions, or don’t like the way I dance, please don’t ask me to teach!

Dearest lindy hop community leaders, please only ask the dancers who you strongly feel are the vision of what this community needs to teach at your events and dances! Let’s raise the standards and make our dancers better and our community bigger!

Thanks.

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New Dance Resolutions

So I’m gonna make some goals. Because that’s what successful people do. I think I’m going to try this whole successful thing this year. YEAR OF PYE! 2013! Ready? GO!

1. Get a job. DONE.

It’s starting off pretty good. I have a job, which is incredible that anyone would ever give me a job. But not only is it just a job, it’s the best job in the entire universe. I get to play with kids all day, and on top of that help them be awesome at life, and on top of that get paid to learn a lot.

2. Drop off unnecessary baggage. DONE.

Got rid of some things I didn’t need anymore. ‘Nuff said.

3. Be more confident.

Almost there, but not quite. Just generally in my life, in my choices, and especially in my dancing. I need a little bit of Irene Thomas up in here.

4. Do things I’m scared of, but secretly love.

Here’s a secret that maybe 5 people in the world know about me. I have a dream of singing in front of people one day. By posting this fairly embarrassing thing about myself I am putting it out there. I am committing to it. This IS the YEAR OF PYE, after all.

5. Save money for things.

Since I have a job now, I can do this. I’m going to travel more and…

6. Teach more.

I was incredibly honored to get asked to teach at Le Hot Sauce this year with Conrad.  I’m so excited and I cannot wait. Also, I’m going to…

7. DJ more.

This is scary for me so it is part of #4 up there. But I’m tired of being stopped by fear. Ooooo. I got deep there for a second. Also, I will…

8. Compete more.

I’m going to ILHC or Bust, as previously stated. And…

9. Dance more.

However, this is the YEAR OF PYE. This calls for something epic. Something drastic. Something insane. Something unimaginably amazing. You know what I’m talking about. The one. The only. Herrang.

BRING IT, UNIVERSE.

10. Care less about what other people think.

And how self centered this entire post sounds.

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ILHC or Bust.

Oh hey there.

So… I have decided to make a resolution. A dancing resolution.

I will go to ILHC this year.

Courtesy of taintwhatyoudo.wordpress.com

What inspired me you may ask? My good friend Nicolle and her post about failing and another good friend, Andrew because we both just got jobs.

That’s right I have a job. Which might mean I can travel now. Prepare yourselves, I’m back.

Here’s what I need from you: If you know anyone that can help, if you have any creative ideas about raising funds for personal endeavors, or even any excellent tips on how to save money or get great deals on travel please leave a comment or email me!

Feels good to be back/a gangster.

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Tips

So I had this amazing teacher this semester and in our last class, before our exam he gave his last lecture. He started with “If I can do make it, so can you.”
He went on:
  1. Listen and pay attention
  2. Respect what you don’t know
  3. Network and strategize
  4. Find a mentor
  5. Emulate the professionals that you meet
  6. The biz is not fair, but it is reciprocal
  7. Focus and self control are fuel — being awesome is a lifestyle
  8. Work hard, but pace yourself
  9. Career success is not happiness
  10. Manage stress in a healthy way
  11. Be willing to go outside your comfort zone
  12. Read, watch, and stay current
It was one of the most inspirational hours of my life. Have you received any inspirational advice lately?

Power Song

Running behind schedule, I know. Focusing a bit on school right now!

Just wanted to share a song on Spotify that’s been getting me through lately.

Some people have power animals, some have power songs. What’s yours?

Heroes

Heroes can be lots of things. Sometimes they are close to you, sometimes you never meet them, and sometimes you can’t meet them because they exist in your mind. To me, Skye Humphries is all of the above at the same time.

My first swing dance teacher mentioned this crazy guy in DC who was doing amazing things in Lindy Hop. His name was Skye Humphries. This was the first time I had heard his name, not knowing that it would essentially change the course of my entire life. So being a dedicated student (or maybe an aspiring internet stalker) I typed his name into the YouTube search box. This was 2007 and I saw this:

I remember watching this clip for hours on repeat, trying to figure out exactly what was so mesmerizing about it. This started my two year YouTube binge. I couldn’t go out social dancing because I was still in high school, so instead, whenever I had free time I’d prowl YouTube for more videos. For two years my life was YouTube.

He makes the simplest movements look incredible. He is not hiding behind flash and trash. The level of perfection that must be reached in order to make a rock step look as inspiring as an aerial is mind blowing. But everyone already knows that Skye is an incredible dancer.

What really inspired me about Skye, is that he’s not embarrassed to be himself. Ever.

And that’s something that will always stay with me for as long as I’m alive.

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Follow Up to True Improvement

I had some more thoughts to add to True Improvement post.

1) Andrew had an awesome post in which he talks about how he improves by dedicating practice time.

I think its important to set up your priorities. If your priority is to just have the most fun ever when you are dancing, then having fun should be what you focus on the most when you dance! If you feel that the most fulfilling way for you to exist is to constantly improve your dancing, then read on…

2) Daniel sent me this awesome video, which is just perfect:

I think when we say that practice makes perfect, it’s not entirely true. It’s practicing the right way. Knowing what you are not so good at, sucking it up, and honestly working on it. My first teacher used to say that it’s like eating your vegetables. IT SUCKS, I know. For me, that is focusing on one of the multitude of things I am not so good at and working on it anytime I’m dancing (class, practice, social dance) for however long (usually months) until it slowly creeps into my muscle memory.

I have this dichotomy that exists in my brain between wanting to have fun, just forgetting about everything, and enjoying dancing and while also wanting, SO desperately, to fix all those different parts of my dancing which are honestly terrible. Obviously there are times where I abandon my practice mindset for a few songs. But I know those few songs, or moments, I’m not actually improving my dancing at all. I’m just having fun. That’s cool too!

It’s important, at least for me it is, not to trick yourself into thinking that when you’re not thinking about your dancing critically (when you’re just having fun) that you are improving. You might be improving at having fun, but you won’t have any quantifiable improvement in your dancing. For me, the times when I feel like I’m improving the most is when it is the hardest for me focus on the thing I am working on. On that note…

3) A thought from Daniel and Dax Hock, who mentioned this in a conversation I was eavesdropping on, was that the closer we actually get to that threshold of progress the more discomfort we feel. And when we can stand that discomfort for just a moment longer is when we break that threshold and truly improve and progress.

Just something to think about.

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